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Leo Brent Robillard -- Night Table Recommendations

Wednesday, Jun 27, 2012 at 10:55am

My bedside is littered with books - a slow slide of magazines, hard covers, and paperbacks loosely grouped into three piles. Read, partially read, and wishful thinking. Novels, travel guides, histories, current affairs. I'm a jack of all trades, plagued by too many interests and too little time. But I find the paper mountain comforting. After all, books do furnish a room.

However, my favourites, if I'm honest, are the novels. I like fiction that goes to places others fear to tread. I want a book to grab me by the throat and squeeze. Hard.

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Categories: Reviews, Discussions, Authors, Night Table Recommendations

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The Personal Essay

Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 at 1:51pm

Personal essays are subjective by definition. They are autobiographical in nature and usually deal with an experience that has shaped the author's personal view of the world. They tend to be conversational in tone, allowing the reader to stroll through the inner thoughts of a creative mind. But most of all they are deliciously intimate, frank and often funny. Sit down for some table talk and let four internationally renowned novelists share his or her insights into what makes us and the world go round.

Marilynn Robinson
Since the publication of her novel Housekeeping in 1981, Robinson has built a reputation as a writer of sharp, subtly moving prose, not only as a major novelist (her second, Gilead, won the 2005 Pulitzer) but also as a rigorous thinker and incisive essayist. Her new collection, When I Was a Child I Read Books, returns to the themes that have preoccupied her: the role of faith in modern life, the inadequacy of fact, the contradictions inherent in human nature. Clear-eyed and forceful as ever, Robinson demonstrates once again why she is regarded as a modern rhetorical master.

Colm Tóibín
In New Ways to Kill Your Mother, Tóibín, (award-winning author of The Master [2004] and Brooklyn [2009]), turns his attention to the intricacies of family relationships in literature and writing. The subjects of the pieces range from the importance of aunts (and the death of parents) in the English nineteenth-century novel to the relationship between fathers and sons in the writing of James Baldwin and Barack Obama. He also illuminates not only the intimate connections between writers and their families but also, with wit and tenderness, articulates the great joy of reading their work.

Anna Quindlen
From childhood memories to manic motherhood to middle age, the Pulitzer-winning journalist and novelist uses the events of her life to illuminate ours as she considers marriage, girlfriends, mothers, faith, loss, aging, wisdom, all the stuff in our closets, and more. Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake is candid, funny, moving, and filled with the sharp insights that confirm Quindlen as a keen observer of modern life.

Jonathan Franzen
Bestselling novelist Jonathan Franzen (Freedom [2010] and The Corrections [2001]) approaches the themes, both human and literary, that have long preoccupied him in Farther Away. He recounts his violent encounter with bird poachers in Cyprus, examines his mixed feelings about the suicide of his friend and rival David Foster Wallace, and offers a moving and witty take on the ways that technology has changed how people express their love. These essays present a unique and mature mind wrestling with itself, with literature and with some of the most important issues of our day.
Photo by Greg Martin

Categories: Discussions, New Releases

Male Singers We Love

Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 3:12pm


Just a sampling of some of the great male singers, past and present. At least we think so...

Categories: Reviews, Site News, Discussions, Music, Saskatoon, Winnipeg

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Alexei Maxim Russell -- Night Table Recommendations

Friday, May 04, 2012 at 12:04pm

Most reviews are given from a literary perspective--that is, from the perspective of an individual who has some knowledge of what qualifies as "good" and what is relegated to the dreaded nether-regions of "bad" writing. Whilst I acknowledge the superior knowledge and education of some people--concerning literature--I have never myself been able to take on this role with any degree of comfort. A lot of my creative energy springs from a general state of open-mindedness, concerning what I see and what I read. If you are of such a temperament, all judgement of good and bad appear extremely subjective--to the point that speculations of quality can seem academic, to say the least.

As a result of this inherent self-doubt, concerning my place in the world of literary criticism, I prefer to write my recommendations purely from the perspective of an author. I may not have found an adequate yard-stick to measure literary quality, as yet, but I have my own private yard-stick to estimate how much fun an author may have had, writing a given work. I can usually guess how much fun an author had by how original and fresh the writing or the concept is. When an author is having fun, it shows in their writing. Not only are other writers intrigued--innately detecting the sense of fun which spurs the author on--but any serious reader will likely be able to catch on to the fun and be carried away on that tide, along with the writer. I recommend these books based entirely on that sense of fun.

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Categories: Reviews, Discussions, Authors, SciFi & Fantasy, Winnipeg, Night Table Recommendations

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